This year has been a year of change, of adjustment, of shapeshifting. Even for businesses that didn’t suffer major layoffs or have to shutter their doors or make significant cutbacks, the world changed in 2020, and so did the way customers want to do business with you.
The change that this year has brought, paired with the already fast-changing, customer-centric trajectory of customer comms, has meant that 2021 and beyond are looking vastly different than years gone by.
So where are customer communications going, and what do we expect to change next year and going forward? Here are some insights to take with you as we cap off 2020 and head into the future:
Customer success will win
Ultimately, customer success will be a driving factor for business success next year in the foreseeable future. More than in past years, businesses that devote serious attention to the value customers can create for themselves with the help of your products will see stronger customer relationships and therefore win more business over time.
Customer success is different from customer support and customer service. Customer support usually refers to reactively offering assistance when asked for it, and customer service entails offering guidance and suggestions. Customer success, on the other hand, will be the winning business’s best friend, since it involves actually being invested in the growth of the customer.
Netflix, and its obsession with personalizing the customer experience, is a company that has shown the power of customer success. A few years ago, Netflix carried out a series of tests to see how customers responded to recommendations, and the company is constantly updating its CX to personalize the journey for every customer. Its customer success approach works because it makes accessing preferred, quality content completely frictionless.
As more and more companies offer this type of hyper-targeted personalization and care, customers are going to begin to expect it from the brands they work with. They will likely begin to choose companies based on the quality of their customer success initiative.
As an example of how this trend is growing, currently, 70 percent of consumers have a more positive view of brands that proactively reach out with customer service updates. That’s because customers are seeing real value when they work with companies that make their lives easier, and moving away from simply reacting to customer inquiries is the way of the future. As marketing and customer success intertwine even more, data will be paramount in this. Companies will be better equipped to care for the customer throughout the entire lifecycle rather than just on a one-off basis, and this will be key to succeeding in the future of customer comms.
Self-service will rule
Seven out of ten customers expect your website to include a self-service option. This is evidence that, even today, customers want to be able to help themselves whenever they can. Self-service will be the way businesses will not only be able to keep customers happy but also make customer service, support and success more efficient.
Think of this: Your robust knowledge base helps customers discover answers to their own questions, which frees up your support team to focus on empathizing with customers and building relationships. You won’t have to spend valuable time and money on searching for answers to small support-related questions and can dedicate these resources to strengthening long-term bonds with customers.
Technology will help, of course. As more and more questions are asked, answered and (hopefully) catalogued by your support team now, you’ll have what you need to create a thorough knowledge base. Customers can peruse it on their own, or they can easily get answers through templated or automated text messages. Either way, your support team is available to hone in on skillfully driving customer success.
Conversations will dominate
Customer communications of the future will be conversational. There is no doubt that the tides are turning this way already with growing impatience with the old ways. Nine out of 10 customers say they want the opportunity to provide feedback to brands, but 54 percent say they only occasionally, or almost never, have that opportunity.
Customers want, and will get, personal, real-time communications right where they are in 2021. That means that companies that are able to have these types of two-way conversations will thrive while businesses that are not will lose out. Why? Convenience is one reason. Customers are growing their desire to have what they want at their fingertips. Text messaging is a great example of a technology that reaches customers exactly where they are — more than 90 percent of people read their texts within three seconds, and phones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What exactly do conversational communications look like in the future? The first quality of this forward-looking style is its two-way approach. Leaving the door open for customer inquiries, feedback and input will be absolutely critical to maintaining a conversation with customers that builds trust and strengthens the relationship over time. Personalization will also be critical, and robust data will help companies personalize their comms easily. A good memory goes a long way, which is why it will be important for a company to remember the touchpoints it’s shared with customers in order to piece together the entire story so they don’t have to.
Finally, conversational communications means talking in real time. That means no more waiting on hold, no more refreshing email for a response to come 24 hours later. These antiquated means of keeping in touch with customers simply won’t cut it anymore. When competitors can text their customers immediately to resolve issues, businesses without these capabilities will be left behind in the name of convenience.
Omnichannel will take over
More than three-quarters of people (76 percent) say they expect brands to know their contact information as well as their product and service history. Yet, 54 percent say they are only occasionally rewarded with a brand that remembers them.
Creating a system of remembering customer interactions across various channels will be crucial to getting and staying ahead in 2021 and beyond. A customer doesn’t want to have to rehash every interaction they’ve ever had with your brand or every issue they’ve ever raised with your products each time they contact you. Especially today when there are so many different ways to get in touch with brands, customer touchpoints should be recorded.
Recording your customer text message history, social media interactions and other touchpoints in a centralized location will help companies be in the know about any given customer when their information is needed. This unified onmichannel approach will cut back on inconveniences and smooth out the customer journey even more. And integrating your customer-facing channels with the software your team already uses can make omnichannel customer success much easier on everyone.
Customers are also going to expect brand consistency across all touchpoints — in-person, social media, email, text. What your brand message is in a digital ad should match what your brand message is when a customer service text message is sent. As customer data merges the responsibilities of customer service and marketing, brands will want to keep brand messaging consistent across the board or risk confusion.
Texting will cover entire customer journey
There are a number of ways text messages will be able to meet the growing demands for convenience and customer success. Eighty percent of people consider speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service to define a great customer experience. Text messaging, when done right, can be a part of the entire customer journey and can enhance all the expectations customers have for speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service.
Here are some of the ways companies can use text messaging in 2021 and beyond to manage great relationships with their customers:
- Initial inquiries
- Purchasing help and follow-ups
- Deals and promotions
- Upsells and cross-sells
- Sharing content for customer engagement
- Ongoing customer support
- (Read more ideas for powerful CX texts here)
With an open rate of 98 percent, text messaging is the most effective way businesses can get in touch with their customers. Its effectiveness goes beyond open rate, though. Texting is the future of customer comms simply because customers can reach out and respond easily and on their own time. Texts are easy to template out or automate while still retaining the personal and casual nature customers are looking for. Teams can manage more caseloads and help more people at once when texts are received and funnelled through a shared inbox. Texts bring in more customer engagement with their high open rate, and text messaging can make customer success more efficient overall.
The most important point to consider going forward, however, is what the customer wants. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they’d switch to a company that offered text messaging as a communication channel.
The future of customer comms is bright. It’s convenient. It’s fast. And it cares about the success of the customer more than ever before.